A friend and former client, and faithful reader of these missives, challenged me to write about fairness, of which there seems a paucity these days.
Fairness is a funny thing. When little kids say, “Not fair!!!”, they really mean, “I’m not being treated the way I would like.” As we grow older, we begin to understand that fairness is not about getting our way all the time, but about equity and equality, even-handedness applied to all and sundry.
The problem is that nature is not fair. Nature in the raw is merciless, where only the toughest and the fiercest survive.
Nature is also random. It may be that you discover a rich vein of gold on your land, it’s equally likely that a sinkhole swallows your house. It may be that you are like my Dad, who lived to 102, of which the first 98 were healthy, active years. But it may also be that you are diagnosed with an aggressive cancer while still in your thirties, notwithstanding your healthy lifestyle.
King Midas thought himself the luckiest man on earth, with everything that he touched turning to gold. Lucky, that is, until he touched his beloved daughter. As he discovered, we more or less have to accept what nature dishes out.
But that’s not the end of the story. There are two more chapters.
First, we can be wise about nature. While we can’t yet control earthquakes, we can still do something about the climate catastrophe we have brought upon our own heads, and we can do a lot about protecting our own personal physical, mental, and spiritual health. It’s one thing to accept when life dishes out hard things, but there’s no prize for going back for seconds.
There’s another area of life where we have some control over fairness, and that is in our treatment of one another. If we, in our communities and societies, determine to treat one another with respect and compassion, the Law of the Jungle will not prevail. And that means I will treat you fairly, and you will treat my kids fairly, and they will treat your sister fairly, and she will treat me fairly. This is at the heart of the Golden Rule, and this is at the heart of our liberal democracies.
Can we guarantee that we will all be treated fairly? No, we can't. But we can do our best to deal fairly. And therein is hope.